Combating Human Trafficking
This week, I was proud to join my colleagues in supporting a bipartisan package of bills to combat human trafficking – a problem that is, unfortunately, proving more widespread here in Maryland than many other states because we are home to a convergence of international transportation options.
In the United States, as many as 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into our country each year and 38,600 runaway and abandoned children are at risk of sexual exploitation, according to a Department of Justice study. It’s a $35 billion industry that forces the most vulnerable members of our society into lives of forced labor, rape and other forms of exploitation. It is essentially modern-day slavery.
The bills passed by wide margins in the House of Representatives will help local, state and federal law enforcement get a better handle on the problem. If passed in the Senate, they will:
- Replace the term “child prostitution” with “child sex trafficking” in federal legislation to emphasize that these children are victims, not criminals.
- Improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify and document sex trafficking victims.
- Expand support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of sex trafficking.
- Strengthen efforts to prevent children in foster care from becoming victims of sex trafficking.
- Allow existing grant programs to support shelters for trafficking survivors.
- Train federal employees who work at borders and airports how to identify potential trafficking victims and report cases to local law enforcement.
- Upgrade trafficking to “bureau level” within the State Department.
Trafficking has no place in modern society and I hope that this effort puts us one step closer to eradicating it once and for all.